A Brief Hiatus, Maybe

As it may seem for the last 6 months or so of writing this blog I’ve been taking a quote-unquote brief hiatus, but instead of it being from odd stress here and there and writer’s block this new hiatus is because of no internet access. Starting around Sunday I won’t have internet access for anywhere up to two weeks, which means I’ll basically have to take a forced hiatus. I’m going to attempt to finish up a few promised and or unpromised reviews to post until then, but basically I won’t be able to post anything for a while. Which is something that most of my readers are used to by now but I felt bad and decided to make this post explaining myself.

As always, thanks for reading!

photo by Dominik Gwarek

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Staff Picks #12: Somewhere (2010)

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Plot:

After withdrawing to the Chateau Marmont, a passionless Hollywood actor reexamines his life when his eleven-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.

Why It’s A Staff Pick:

“Somewhere” gets very high marks on my Staff Picks section for three huge reasons; Number One, and very importantly, is because of Stephen Dorff’s incredible, at times near-heartfelt performance. Not only does he have the looks and physique to play a character like Johnny Marco, but he also has the redeeming likeability that a character like Marco sometimes needs and he definitely has the depth and acting ability to perfectly play this challenging role. Number two, and arguably most important, would be Sophia Coppola’s terrific screenplay and delightfully crafted story, which faultlessly mixes emotions of loss and longing with strong subjects like fatherhood that are all the while sobering and rang genuinely true. The third reason for recommendation is the minimalist, almost dense tone in which the scenes of the film were crafted. While some scenes go on and out without much notice and others seem to linger on without too much happening, the strong emotions displayed throughout and the pensive depth of Dorff’s character pierce the heart and senses all across the entire movie.

My Rating:

8.5/10

Thanks for Reading!

Staff Picks #11: Salinger (2013)

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Plot:

An unprecedented look inside the private world of J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye.

Why It’s A Staff Pick:

Forget what you know about JD Salinger, no matter how much or how little you know about him, for a moment. Even if you’ve never read his work, like myself, if you know at least a thing or two about literature history you should know somethings about him. You’d know that he was highly reclusive for the majority of his life, that he wrote one of the most controversial yet critically praised novels of all time (“Catcher in the Rye”), and you’d probably know that his main character from “Catcher” Holden Caulfield’s quote-unquote unique ideals inspired Mark David Chapman to assassinate John Lennon. This movie is included in my Staff Picks list because if you don’t know much or anything about Salinger and want to take the opportunity to learn, this documentary is absolutely perfect for you. Although the sequencing of events is a tad odd to get used to at first, the film goes into copious amounts of detail about his early life, his life during and at the end of WWII, the writing and inspirations for “Catcher”, his later more reclusive life, and even plenty about his final years – all with fantastic interviews from fans, friends, colleagues, and admirers. While I did have a problem with the amount of dramatic reenactments that this documentary had, it is still a brilliant and well-crafted piece about a truly original and fascinating individual.

My Rating:

8.5/10

Thanks for Reading!

Staff Picks #10: Laurel Canyon (2002)

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Plot: When an uptight young man and his fiancee move into his libertine mother’s house, the resulting clash of life attitudes shakes everyone up.

Why It’s A Staff Pick: Though I consider “Laurel Canyon” the lesser of brilliant writer-director Lisa Cholodenko’s three movies, the others being “High Art” and “The Kids Are All Right”, it’s still a very well-written and well-developed character study of a young couple being brought into this hedonistic lifestyle completely unlike their own. While the pacing and tone of this movie can be odd at times, the performances, especially from Christian Bale and even more especially from Frances McDormand, more than make up for it. Like I said, “Laurel Canyon” may not be as great as Cholodenko’s two other movies, but it is still well worth watching.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Thanks for Reading!

Hide Your Smiling Faces (2013) Review

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Plot: After a neighborhood tragedy, two adolescent brothers confront changing relationships, the mystery of nature, and their own mortality.

Almost every year in film there’s a slew of coming-of-age dramas that are either hyped-up unbelievable or come unexpectedly, and to be honest the majority of them, or at least the ones that I have seen, are not too great. Usually they are either watchable/alright, complete garbage, or the trailer was so annoying that I couldn’t even consider watching them, but then every once in a while a coming-of-age movie comes along and blows everything out of the water. That is the case with Daniel Patrick Carbone’s “Hide Your Smiling Faces”, a dreary but very ultimately effective drama.

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Carbone’s directorial/screenwriting debut is such a great piece that I had to make a mental note to keep watch of his upcoming movies, because as far as I can tell from how good of a movie this was he’s going to have a wonderful independent career ahead of him. The movie is very hazy, and almost dreamlike. He writes such a tapestry of beautifully drawn-out characters, every feeling of grief and mortality is instantly felt while watching. It’s a very moody, very dreary, almost depressing movie, but so accurate as to the feelings going on in the mind of an adolescent when he or she is confronted with grief, tragedy, mystery, mortality, life, death, human struggle. So much so that the viewer can feel and experience the happiness and eventual pain along with the characters. The direction was very graceful, the cinematography very artistic and alluring.

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Carbone got an enormous amount of emotion out of a mostly inexperienced, unknown cast. Ryan Jones and Nathan Varnsan, who play brothers Tommy (Jones) and Eric (Varnsan), gave such an honest, realistic, expert portrait of adolescence and struggle that it’s as if the director documented a summer in the life of two real life brothers who were struggling with loss and mortality. It’s that realistic, it’s that natural, and it most certainly is that honest.

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In conclusion, “Hide Your Smiling Faces” is depressing and dreary, but it is an expertly crafted and ultimately beautiful tribute to adolescence and the struggle of relationships, nature, and mortality that comes along with it. A must see in almost every sense of the word.

My Rating: 9/10

Thanks for Reading!

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Staff Picks #9: Party Monster (2003)

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Plot: This is the true story of Michael Alig, a Club Kid party organizer whose life was sent spiraling down when he bragged on television about killing his drug dealer and roommate.

Why It’s a Staff Pick: “Party Monster” is another movie that made my Staff Picks section even though I didn’t give it a high rating, but for some very good reasons. It’s the perfect modern campy cult movie. If you thought movies like “Rocky Horror Picture Show” were campy, you’ll be in for quite a shock as the campiness factor hits you in the face from the very beginning, but considering the subject of this movie (Michael Alig) it hits the nail right on the head with the perfect amount of over-the-top camp and glam. Not only is it a technically well-made movie that tells the true story fairly accurately and has this fabulously dark-humored aura to it, but also – my main reason for it being included on my Staff Picks – Party Monster is pretty wonderfully acted from both Seth Green and especially Macaulay Culkin. From start to finish, Macaulay Culkin entertained and surprised as Alig, and his performance was made even more incredible by the fact that he actually visited Alig in prison to try and get the performance as close as he could to the real thing. If you love campy, glamorous, over-the-top cult classics, put “Party Monster” on your watchlist immediately!

My Rating: 7.5/10

Thanks for Reading!

“Her” Review (2013)

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Plot: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

**Review contains some strong language**

The film world desperately needs more movies like this, more bittersweet, smart romantic movies that play against the type of usual romantic movies that we get. I cannot tell you how much I hate seeing trailers for modern romantic comedies or romantic movies in general because of how seriously fucking annoying they seem, movies like “Winter’s Tale” (which was terrible beyond belief), “Endless Love” (which really was annoying), and the “Think Like A Man” movies and their ilk, which make me utterly sick to my stomach. I hate the thought of movies like that, which are manipulative and are trying to force beliefs that men should act like complete goddamn douchebags and women should be oblivious to the fact that their douchebags and go with them instead of someone who’s right for them. It’s just idiotic. Spike Jonze’s brilliant “Her” is the best romantic comedy in years. Period. Very very very few romantic comedies of the past 15 years or so only come close to the magic that this film is, movies such as “(500) Days of Summer”, “About a Boy”, “Love Actually”, and, in a way, “Juno” to name the very few.

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Spike Jonze writes a screenplay of just unbelievably uncommon power, a film about loneliness and romance that isn’t exploitative of its characters’ emotions that has genuine heart, embraces original ideas, and has warm, and actually funny humor. Jonze’s direction was also just astounding, with beautiful cinematography, colorful set design, and a barely-there science fiction concept that fit this movie like a glove.

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Joaquin Phoenix’s utterly delightful and pitch perfect performance of lonely Theodore Twombly set the tone for this movie. It’s a grand performance that reminded me fondly of Steve Buscemi’s performance in “Ghost World”, another truly brilliant portrait of a lonely soul. I’m gonna go as far to say this might be the best performance Joaquin has ever given, it’s just that good. I’m almost considering ranking it above his career best performance as character Freddie Quell in “The Master”. And lest not forget Scarlett Johansson’s remarkably fresh voice-over performance as Theodore’s quote-unquote love interest Samantha.

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In conclusion, Spike Jonze’s “Her” is a uncommonly brilliant, fresh, and original romantic comedy that is genuinely romantic, genuinely funny, and genuinely has heart. This movie should’ve swept this years Academy Awards, especially for Best Original Song (yes, I’m still pissed that “The Moon Song” didn’t win. No, I will not Let It Go. Yes, I realize how clever I am.) The talented cast of Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Smart, and Scarlett Johansson to name a few provide perfect performances in this elegant romantic tale with true emotions that should be required viewing for everyone.

My Rating: 10/10

Thanks for Reading!

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